Slovenes are making a meal of the humble potato

In Slovenia nothing goes down as well as a good feed of sautéed potatoes and onion. Yes the humble potato has been a staple of the Slovene diet for a couple of centuries. So much so that a few years ago five enthusiasts formed the "Society for the Recognition of Sautéed Potato and Onions as an Independent Dish". As Heather Pirejevic reports, what started as a bit of a joke has since become something of a smorgasboard.

The society’s spokesman Bostjan Zrimšek, took time away from peeling potatoes…

“I think the name of the society tells it all! The Society for the Recognition of Sautéed Potato and Onions as an Independent Dish This means that the Slovenian national plate of sautéed potatoes with onions should be ordered in restaurants as an independent dish!”

“We have 850 members. There are three main rules. One is that you eat sautéed potatoes with onions once a week in the presence of 3 persons who can confirm this! The second one is that eating French fries is prohibited! The third one is we are not related in any way to politics, you shouldn’t talk politics and business in potato meetings!”

This potato loving Society, which also supports the slow food movement, organises traditional gala evenings, excursions, and even international sautéed potato festivals. In fact the 8th World Festival is coming up this September...

“On that day will be a very big party. It will be in Črna na Koroškem near the Austrian border. Last year in Prekmurje there were about 10.000 people in one day enjoying sautéed potatoes in 35 different ways!”

Thirty five different ways – well doesn’t that call for the publishing of a cook-book?

“If you think that sautéed potato is just one kind of dish it is not so! You can use it in many different ways and it will be done in our cook-book”

The members have actually collected over 160 recipes for sautéed potatoes and even composed a special potato anthem.

Last year the potato evaluating committee decided that the most suitable potato for the dish was the Dutch Manitou. This year Slovenia’s eccentric potato lovers have decided to immortalize the potato forever-

“It will be a monument devoted to the most important thing in Slovenia – the potato! It started on the 1st April but it is not a joke, it is very serious. Maybe you know that the potato saved us from hunger – that’s why we should be very proud that we accepted this food as a Slovenian dish. So in memory of the bringing of the potato in to Slovenia and also for our future generations this will be a monument that will represent that the potato is very important for all people!”

The Slovene academic sculptor Janez Pirnat, whose works can be found at home and abroad, has been developing his idea for a potato monument for over seven years and now with the support of the society it will be erected in Šenčur on the 25th May.

In 2007 more than 320 million tons of potatoes were consumed one way or another and today potatoes are grown on an estimated 195,000 sq km of farmland with China being the world’s biggest producer. The members of the Society for the Recognition of Sautéed Potato and Onions as an Independent Dish will be serving and consuming a wild array of sautéed potatoes at their world festival in September – but just a word of consolation - the side dish is a barbequed ox!